Monday, 6 August 2018
One of the new generation of films made for release on Netfilx or on demand through Sky Movies, I caught up with this film yesterday as the trailers had made it look like 'my kind of film'. I enjoyed much of it but felt it could have been so much more. This is a sci-fi film that is far more fi than sci! In terms of plot and visuals it aspires to be Minority Report meets The Matrix meets The Final Cut meets Inception but it's not nearly as good as any of these.
Set in a kind of retro near future, the architecture, clothes and transport all look like they don't quite fit. The mood and lighting have a gangster feel and I kept expecting James Cagney or Robert Mitchum to appear. Lighting was strong and shadows were a plenty which again fits the film's plot. Most internal shots were of large empty spaces, sparsely furnished with walls finished in polished concrete. All very minimalist and grey. Again, in keeping with the film's plot.
The film is set in an age were everyone has a biosyn implant that records all that the individual sees and offers information in an augmented reality kind of way - see the picture above which helpfully identifies a church and gives details of what it offers. It is good to see that the Church is still around in the future despite current predictions! Perhaps God does know what he/she is doing?
Through this visual implant that is linked to a person's thoughts and memories, all communications and visual data are uploaded to 'The Ether' through which the government controls, polices and directs its population. Nothing goes unseen or unheard, no communication evades monitoring. If you commit a crime a message flashes up in your 'mind's eye' to cease any activity, stay where you are and await arrest. The recording of what you did to break the law is held in The Ether and accessed by law enforcement to convict you. There are of course different levels of access, but the top policemen can access the highest levels.
I say policemen because none of the law enforcement officers are female and females are only portrayed in this film as either a neurotic ex, a sex object or a hacker who is also an assassin. Not a very rounded view of sexual types.
For those who maintain and police the system, it offers a kind of utopia where everything is held in balance and people lead fulfilled lives as they commute to work each day on the subway. This is a world where seeing is believing and when it dawns on the investigators that someone is hacking The Ether and removing records replacing them with benign images of mundane normality, they begin to freak out as they no longer know what they can trust and believe.
"How can we control what we cannot see?" is a central question posited by one of the leading detectives. This re-writing of the the world's rule book forces the city's Commissioner to compel the detectives to operate outside the law in order to eliminate the threat. This turning to Utilitarianism by 'the state' poses a bigger threat to the order of society than the hacking of The Ether in the mind of the central character and highlights a major temptation that fascism will inevitably fall into when pushed. Our main character is however, able to detect the nuances of the plot development and offers a brief respite from what is otherwise a predictable, mundane and formulaic plot and screenplay.
Overall, I was disappointed. This film failed to develop its characters or plot in any serious way. It also failed to deliver a view of the world that was new and different to anything we hadn't already seen elsewhere. It does however offer an opportunity to explore concepts of state control, privacy and anonymity. In an increasingly digitalised world where our smartphone's track our movements and our bankcards track our lifestyle, this is a timely invitation. How differently would you act if all your actions and communications were open to scrutiny by anonymous enforcers? What if we could read one another in this way - how different might our relationships be then?
The only time your visuals are not being downloaded to The Ether are when you sleep or when you close your eyes. The hacker/assassin says at one point "We close our eyes to pray, cry, kiss, dream... or break the law." and later asserts her right of privacy by observing "It's not that I have something to hide. I have nothing I want you to see." These brief insights into a more meaningful exploration of what the film invites viewers to explore are too few and far between to redeem the overall package in my view.
Don't hurry to watch this - unless it's a rainy evening, you've run out of ironing and you have absolutely nothing else to do. I have little choice other than to award it 5/10. Disappointing.